12:29pm UK, Sunday June 24, 2012
Ecuador’s ambassador to Britain has returned home to discuss whether to offer asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who sought refuge in the South American country’s London embassy.
The Australian former computer hacker, who enraged Washington in 2010 when his WikiLeaks website published secret US diplomatic cables, is wanted for questioning in Sweden over sex crime allegations.
Assange, who denies the claims, took refuge at Ecuador’s London embassy in a surprise move last Tuesday, days after Britain’s Supreme Court said he could be extradited to Sweden in the coming weeks.
Assange fears being sent on to the United States where he believes he could face charges punishable by death.
The Ecuadorian embassy said in a statement on Saturday that ambassador Anna Alban had left Britain for talks in the capital city of Quito.
While in Ecuador, Ms Alban will be holding a series of meetings with officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before meeting leftist President Rafael Correa to personally brief him on Assange’s application for political asylum.
In his weekly television show on Saturday, Correa said his government would make “a sovereign decision” on Assange’s application and that it would not bow to overseas pressure – though it would take Britain’s views into account.
He also expressed scepticism about the accusations that Assange faces in Sweden.
“What Julian Assange had was mutually consensual sex with two adult women. The accusations are very doubtful, to say the least,” he said.
Film maker Jean-Philippe Tremblay, who features the Wikileaks founder in his upcoming film Shadows of Liberty, said governments were trying to “wipe out” Assange.
“Here we have an individual, independent organisation that’s run on public funds, using the most amazing communications tool that we have ever seen – the internet – and bringing information for the public interest.
“On the other side we have extremely powerful governments and organisations which are trying to wipe him out.”
British police have said Assange risks being arrested for breaching his bail terms if he emerges from the embassy, a five-storey red-brick building in the upmarket central London area of Knightsbridge.
Assange spent nine days in prison in Britain after Sweden sought his extradition for questioning, before being released on bail in December 2010.